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Monday, June 11, 2018

The Adonis paradox

Myrrha by ilTM + Selkis

The most famous play based on the Greek myth of Myrrha is, in Italy at least, Vittorio Alfieri's Mirra, written in 1784-6. The tragedy is entirely set in the girl's mind, fighting against her sudden, crazy desire to make love to her own father, King Cinyras of Cyprus, and resisting desperately until she kills herself. That makes a refined masterpiece in the history of Italian drama; but with a problem, in 'our' humble opinion, that is as readers of G. B. Marino's works: in that case, if things had happened as Alfieri describes them, no Adonis would be born.

Starting from the opposite viewpoint, one of the most interesting messages in Marino's Adone (published in 1623) is to restore Myrrha's honor, especially after Adonis, who was born in exile but has now come back to Cyprus, becomes the new king -- one of Marino's countless variations on the original theme. This intermingles, and strangely so, with the fact that Adonis' lover and mentor is Venus, precisely the one who caused Myrrha's incestuous feelings in order to punish her and her family because she had been praised as being more beautiful than the goddess.

In a sense, by acting on Myrrha, Venus paves the way to the existence of her perfect lover, who in his turn will redeem his mother.